Police step up security at Pheu Thai HQ following Monday’s clash
Police will intervene if security officers are unable to deal with violent protests at political party offices, a senior Bangkok police officer said on Friday.
Colonel Sanoh Poonphet, the caretaker superintendent of Bangkok’s Makkasan Police Station, said officers would focus on maintaining law and order and controlling traffic on roads outside of private property when there is a demonstration at offices of political parties.
When demonstrations get out of control, police will work with security officers at the political party offices to restore peace, Sanoh said.
Sanoh said the adjustment to policing followed an instruction from national police chief General Damrongsak Kittiprapas that local police have to adapt their strategy for dealing with future protests at political party offices.
The police chief’s instruction followed chaos outside of the Pheu Thai Party’s headquarters on Monday when its leaders met with their counterparts from the Bhumjaithai Party.
Angry young activists from the anti-monarchy Thalu Wang group staged a protest against what they deemed Pheu Thai’s “betrayal” of the Move Forward Party. Pheu Thai and Move Forward – both former opposition parties – had formed an alliance after Move Forward won the May 14 general election. Pheu Thai left the alliance to form a new one with Bhumjaithai, which is part of the outgoing coalition government, after Move Forward’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat failed in his bid to be elected prime minister.
Police were criticised for inaction over the chaos at Pheu Thai headquarters. Among the critics was Anutin Charnvirakul, the caretaker public health minister and Bhumjaithai Party leader, who complained that police officers simply “stood idly by”.
Sanoh said on Friday that police would work more closely with political party officials to handle protests at their premises.
He said police would first attempt to determine the number of potential demonstrators so that they could prepare a sufficient number of officers. A major duty for the police is to prevent a “third party” from causing chaos during a demonstration, Sanoh said.
“Pheu Thai’s security officials will deal with security matters inside the premises. Police will keep law and order in the surrounding area and prevent a third party from creating any chaos. Also, police will take care of traffic in front of the Pheu Thai headquarters,” Sanoh said.
On Monday, young activists from the Thalu Wang group blocked the Bhumjaithai convoy from leaving the Pheu Thai headquarters. Bhumjaithai deputy leader Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, who is also the caretaker tourism minister, left his vehicle to face a young female protester and they argued briefly.
The young woman used expletives in her argument with the minister. Pipat kept his cool.
Protesters also attempted to breach the barriers of the Phue Thai headquarters and enter its compound on Wednesday. Security personnel formed lines to prevent protesters from entering the compound.
Some protesters threw objects and a reporter was accidentally hit by a water bottle.
Damrongsak, the police chief, had explained that his subordinates first allowed security guards at the premises to take action as the Pheu Thai headquarters is located on private property. He said the police did not expect a violent incident or a blockage of the motorcade.
The aggressive protests were heavily criticised and some Move Forward politicians publicly denied any link between the party and the Thalu Wang protesters. Observers of Thai politics noted recently that young people have been used as a political tool.